Two of the greatest marathon fields ever assembled have just become even stronger with the announcement today that Geoffrey Mutai and Aselefech Mergia have been added to the men’s and women’s elite line-ups for the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Kenya’s Mutai and Mergia from Ethiopia are the two most prominent names in a second wave of athletes signed up for the London Marathon’s 35th anniversary races on Sunday 26 April.
The initial fields announced in January included Kenenisa Bekele, the multiple Olympic and world track champion, who broke the Paris Marathon course record on his debut at the distance last April. But Bekele has been forced to withdraw from the 2015 race with a right Achilles tendon injury sustained during the Dubai Marathon in January.
“Unfortunately, I have had to pull out of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon because of the problems I had while running in Dubai,” said Bekele. “I desperately wanted to run in London this year, but the injury to my Achilles has not healed sufficiently for me to compete against such a great field.
“I hope to be back in 2016 and ready to challenge the best marathon runners in the world in London.”
Despite the Ethiopian’s withdrawal, the men’s line-up remains one of the best ever seen, and has been strengthened further with the new addition of Geoffrey Mutai, a man who has won the New York Marathon twice in recent years and tasted victory at the 2012 Berlin Marathon. He famously set an unofficial world best when he won the 2011 Boston Marathon in two hours three minutes two seconds, although not acceptable for official records because of the downhill Boston course.
The 2011/12 World Marathon Majors champion joins a field featuring the first ever marathon clash between world record holder Dennis Kimetto and defending London champion Wilson Kipsang, plus the second fastest marathon runner in history, Emmanuel Mutai, the reigning Chicago Marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge, and last year’s London Marathon runner-up Stanley Biwott.
The line-up contains the three fastest marathon runners of all time, and six of the 10 quickest men in history, while Mutai, who has a ‘legitimate’ personal best of 2:04:15, is one of nine men to have run the gruelling 26.2 miles in under 2:05.
A training partner of Kipsang and Kimetto, the 33-year-old Kenyan was due to compete at the Tokyo Marathon on 22 February, but had to withdraw from that race because of a niggling injury and instead has prepared himself to compete with the rest of the world’s best in London, a race already described as “ridiculously good” and “fantasy track and field” by the Let’s Run website.
Mergia’s record is barely less impressive. She returned from pregnancy to win the women’s race at the lucrative Dubai Marathon in January for a record third time, while her personal best of 2:19:31 makes her the third quickest on paper in a women’s field containing the last three London Marathon champions – Edna Kiplagat, Mary Keitany and Priscah Jeptoo – plus last year’s runner-up, the world half marathon record holder Florence Kiplagat.
Mergia will take on Kenya’s fab four in London alongside fellow Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye, the 2014 Tokyo and Berlin Marathon champion, who is another new addition to the talented roster. Tsegaye broke the course record when she won the Tokyo Marathon last February, and ran a personal best of 2:20:18 to take victory in Berlin last September.
While this will be Tsegaye’s London Marathon debut, Mergia runs for the third time having reached the podium on her first appearance in 2010. The addition of these two champions means the race now features four women who have run quicker than 2:20 and eight who have broken 2:21.
Another new name further down the women’s list is that of Elvan Abeylegesse, the Ethiopian-born Turk who won Olympic silver medals at 5000m and 10,000m in 2008 and clinched the distance double on the track at the 2010 European Championships.
A former world record holder at 5000m, she moved up to the marathon two years ago and finished fifth at last summer’s European Championships in Zürich. The 32-year-old will be hoping to make her breakthrough at world class level in her first World Marathon Majors race.
Virgin Money London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher welcomed all the new additions.
“Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it has,” said Brasher. “In most marathons around the world Geoffrey Mutai and Aselefech Mergia would be headline names in their own right.
“While, of course, we are disapppointed to lose Kenenisa, we are delighted to have added Geoffrey and Aselefech to our already bursting fields and welcome them back to London along with all our elite athletes.
“With these ‘fantasy’ fields, Paula Radcliffe’s farewell run, and the IPC Athletics World Championship marathons as well, our 35th anniversary promises to be a very special day.”
The full elite men’s and women’s line-ups can be found below, with new names in bold. Please note that Britain’s Steve Way has also withdrawn with a gluteal injury.
Wilson Kipsang KEN 2:03:23
Dennis Kimetto KEN 2:02:57
Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:03:13
Eliud Kipchoge KEN 2:04:05
Geoffrey Mutai KEN 2:04:15
Ayele Abshero ETH 2:04:23
Sammy Kitwara KEN 2:04:28
Tsegaye Mekonnen ETH 2:04:32
Stanley Biwott KEN 2:04:55
Tilahun Regassa ETH 2:05:27
Samuel Tsegay ERI 2:07:28
Serhiy Lebid  UKR 2:08:32
Aleksey Reunkov RUS 2:09:54
Ghebrezgiabhier Kibrom ERI 2:10:00
Marcin Chabowski POL 2:10:07
Koen Raymaekers NED 2:10:35
Scott Overall GBR 2:10:55
Michael Shelley AUS 2:11:15
Javier Guerra ESP 2:12:21
Bekir Karayel TUR 2:13:21
Hermano Ferreira POR 2:13:28
Christian Kreienbühl SUI 2:15:35
Anuradha Cooray SRI 2:15:51
Mert Girmalegesse TUR 2:17:45
Cesar Lizano CRC 2:17:50
Stijn Fincioen BEL 2:17:57
Matt Hynes GBR 2:43:40
Pedro Ribeiro POR Debut
Guye Adola ETH Debut
Edna Kiplagat KEN 2:19:50
Mary Keitany KEN 2:18:37
Aselefech Mergia ETH 2:19:31
Florence Kiplagat KEN 2:19:44
Priscah Jeptoo KEN 2:20:14
Tirfi Tsegaye ETH 2:20:81
Feyse Tadese ETH 2:20:27
Jemima Sumgong KEN 2:20:41
Tigist Tufa ETH 2:21:52
Tetyana Gamera UKR 2:22:09
Tatyana Arkhipova RUS 2:23:29
Ana Dulce Félix POR 2:25:40
Sara Moreira POR 2:26:00
Alessandra Aguilar ESP 2:27:00
Rkia El Moukim MOR 2:28:12
Iwona Lewandowska POL 2:28:32
Mary Davies NZL 2:28:57
Elvan Abeylegesse TUR 2:29:30
Diane Nukuri BUR 2:29:35
Sonia Samuels GBR 2:30:56
Alyson Dixon GBR 2:31:10
Emma Stepto GBR 2:32:40
Volha Mazuronak BLR 2:33:33
Rebecca Robinson GBR 2:37:14